The Path To Peyton

Over the past three seasons there doesn't seem to be much of a dull moment in Broncos football does there? What a great time to be a Broncos fan. With reports surfacing all over the news world that the Broncos have survived the first round of cuts in the Manning sweepstakes nerves and expectations are starting to get set on edge.

Could this Colt really retire a Bronco? There's a certain irony, or maybe poetry, to that situation.

Yet, with an empty promise that Manning will have a decision made within a week, Broncos fans, writers, and bloggers only have a small window in which to debate what this means for our team. By the time I finish writing this piece the whole story could be different.

But as it stands right this second the Denver Broncos are making a strong push to acquire on of the greatest quarterbacks of my generation. This is truly exciting stuff and the best part of it is my gut is telling me that I should be giving a little more faith to this pipe dream.

Could the Broncos really land a GOAT? The Lebrons of the world never come to Denver, right?

Maybe we are about to change all of that. Maybe we really should take the red pill and see where this rabbit hole leads.

Peyton Manning is one of the most incredible athletes of all time to watch. There's something about watching Manning run his hurry up offense and when he starts pointing and shouting you realize you are seeing something very special.

I don't think anybody in the history of the NFL has played the QB position quite like Manning. The intelligence and subtleness in which he handles each and every play wasn't truly appreciated by fans of the NFL until we saw his team minus that skillset.

How Real Are the Broncos In This Deal?

I don't have any insider knowledge, but I do know what Peyton has suggested and I am hearing what many reporters are saying.

- Peyton wants to play in the AFC.

- Peyton wants to be on a team that has a real shot at a Superbowl run right away.

- Peyton wants to play in a division that he has a great shot at winning and earning a bye. He probably doesn't want to bank on a wildcard.

These three facts alone carve out more than half of the NFL and when you consider the AFC, well, the list gets short fast and somehow the Broncos have found themselves safe from the Peyton axe. Here are a couple of other facts to consider:

First of all, a healthy Peyton Manning makes a lot of very average teams Superbowl contenders, just look at Peyton Manning teams without Peyton Manning. The teams he has taken deep into the playoffs have been average teams all over the place, but they have been far superior where it counts the most, at QB. The fact that the Broncos don't have the greatest at anything doesn't concern me too much when it comes to selling this franchise to a guy like Manning. In fact, our defense is somewhat uniquely suited to Peyton's style, but I'll get to that in a minute.

Secondly, there is a huge disparity of talent in the AFC divisions. There are a lot of rumors that the AFC East Dolphins are the front runners in this sweepstakes. I think that's a little crazy. It's the AFC East! The Dolphins are a poor choice alone for the fact that the New England Patriots are also in that division. But when you consider that the New York Jets AND the cold weather Bills are also there it's a stupidly tough division if you want to take your average team to a division title.

On the Colts Peyton played at least half of his games in a dome, and another three in a dome or warm weather climate. Why would he choose a team that plays two of the toughest AFC teams that also play in some of the most brutal conditions? The Dolphins might be a great home location but their division sucks. Compound that is the fact that Peyton has had some brutal losses to Tom Brady and the Patriots. I don't see a future where he is almost guaranteed to play the Patriots three times to get to a Superbowl.

The AFC North is out of the question as Cleveland is the only suitor and there is simply no way Peyton plays for the Browns who are a mess all over the place. Plus, there doesn't seem to be any interest from that organization and considering the Ravens and Steelers are particularly stocked to end his career in one play I'm guessing he has screened those phone calls on principle.

The AFC South is intriguing as he would get a chance to stick it to his old team at least twice a year and he could do amazing things on the Jaguars... but there seems to be little interest coming from that division, which I find curious. Jacksonville can offer many of the same benefits of a warm weather climate like Miami can without the brutal division. We all know that Gabbert could use a couple more years honing his craft. Perhaps the Jaguars would be more interested in another option? More on that in a minute.

Finally there is the AFC West. A division where an 8-8 team hosted a home playoff team after the "worst QB in the league" led his 1-4 team to its first home playoff game in six years after. We play most of our home games in decent weather but most importantly we are in a division with a Chargers team that has the absolute worst fans in the world and are banking their future on an injury prone Ryan Matthews while their Bronco killing RB Mike Tolbert is jetting for a real team. They will also most likely be losing VJax, which has got the be the greatest STD-sounding name for a player of all time. The Chargers are in a state of big change.

And that's the team to beat in the division (unless of course he is actually considering joining the Chiefs, in which case I fully expect the Broncos to be his biggest headache).

One of the other teams has a QB controversy between guys named Orton and Cassel who combined might equal Peyton Manning's left frontal cortex. The Raiders just spent their entire draft on QB's, have a glass cannon runningback who probably should have made a living out of pillow fights, and are still way over cap. How does that even happen?

The Broncos, on the other hand, have a coach that everyone thought was a run-oriented guy that played ultra conservative football... until he staked his claim to coach of the year by tailoring his offense to a young, unproven QB and then going on to win his division in such fantastic fashion even the most diehard fans couldn't believe.

The Broncos have a defense that is uniquely suited to Peyton in that they are a defense built to hold the lead. We all know that teams can run on us. That's no secret because the run is the most effective way to avoid dealing with Von Miller and Dumerville. However, if a teams is forced to play from behind and pass, well, our defense takes on a whole different form. You can't mess around with Miller and Dumerville breathing down your neck. We are a defense that is one more cornerback and effective middle linebacker away from encouraging pretty much all teams to just give up on the pass altogether.

The Broncos have an offense that is in a state of evolution. DT has staked his claim as a possible #1 WR. I still believe Eric Decker to be a slot receiver but for a #2 he's no slouch. Rumor has it that Peyton Manning will want his BFF Reggie Wayne to join whichever team he chooses. If that's the case.. well, I think we suddenly have a division leading WR corp.

The run game I find a little more interesting. This is a debate that we can have till we are all blue in the face but McGahee, while a great asset to this team last year, is not an every down back for an entire season. With Peyton Manning at QB we are going to need to get help at RB. That's not to say Manning hasn't done some amazing things without a serious running game, but I guarantee you he knows the value of having a strong running attack when it comes to the playoffs. His arm alone could potentially win this division, but he's going to need that run game to get past some of these perennial playoff teams.

Perhaps you missed the beginning of that last sentence. Peyton Manning could potentially win this division with his arm alone. This fact alone makes me more worried about him going to the Chiefs than excited for him to be a Bronco. The AFC West is just too tempting of a division for a QB of his talent. He could have his way with this division and there's only two teams in it that have a serious shot at landing him.

This brings me to my final point on the AFC West. We've got to keep him away from the Chiefs. Peyton Manning as a Chief is a disaster for the Broncos. A disaster. If Manning has plans on coming to the AFC West, we need to make sure it is a tragedy for everyone else. This has nothing to do with our current QB1, it simply has everything to do with a future Hall of Fame QB standing between us and the playoffs. This is a classic scenario of placing the team over an individual player. We want our team to have the best chance at making the tournament every year and if a future Hall of Fame QB hits the market and goes to a different division then... C'est la vie. However, if a future Hall of Fame QB hits the market and you are outbid by another team in your own division because you get cheap, well, shame on you.

Team over player. I repeat, Manning cannot become a Chief. Sometimes offense truly is the best defense. Now the real question for Bronco fans can be raised... what do we do with Tim Tebow?

The Tim Tebow Equation

I hope I don't have to prove to anyone that I am a Tebow fan. I'm a huge Tebow fan. I'll be a Tebow fan if he's a Bronco and I'll be a Tebow fan if he's somewhere else. He's earned that much respect from me and more during his short tenure here. That said, Peyton Manning is a FA is a game changer.

A Game Changer.

I'm sorry, that is simply the truth. You can harp on his health issues all you want but there nothing in the NFL that is guaranteed. Nothing. All you can do is your due diligence, let the pieces fall where they may and if things go to hell hope your backup plan is notorized by someone divine. If Peyton Manning becomes a Bronco, Peyton Manning starts. The man is a legend, and he has earned that. Full time Tebow time can wait, but that in no way means Tebow becomes irrelevant.

I see two distinct scenarios for Tebow if this were to go down.

Scenario 1:

Tebow must be traded.

I think @SayreBedinger (who consistently ignores my tweets btw, thanks bro ;) made a fantastic point when he said "Why trade Tebow when you sign Peyton? Are they five? No." This rings true with me. Tebow may ask to be traded to a team that would be willing to start him, but life's tough and if he has to sit for a couple years on his millions because he is more valuable to this team as a skilled player than in a trade well I say tough it out and start a dating life. Tebow is the last person to turn this into a locker room issue. Not going to be a problem.

The more logical reason to move Tebow is if Manning simply doesn't want Tebow on the same team as him. I can't think of a more secure human being in his skills than Peyton Manning where Tebowmania would simply not effect him. You think Manning would turn into Kyle Orton? Here, say it with me: HELL NO.

Yet, I do get that to a certain extent there can only be one rooster in the hen house and there is a good chance that Tebow can pee into a urinal from farther away than Manning can (it's a youth thing). So let's assume Manning doesn't like that and demands that Tebow get shipped out and the Broncos oblige.

This does a couple things. First of all, it frees the Broncos from any kind of Tebow gameplan. Lose the option plays, lose the QB draws. Get back to basics and start building a team around Manning right now... and grab a successor next year in the draft. In my opinion, you also sign Brady Quinn to a bigger deal ASAP as he is quite possibly still one of the best legitimate backup QB's in the league. He did such a great job warming the bench, give that man a raise!

Secondly, if Peyton Manning demands that Tebow be traded you know that we won't hear about till after said trade, otherwise Tebow's value tanks. The Broncos will try to sell him right away. We can also assume that there are only a few teams out there with a legitimate reasons to bring Tebow on (maybe just one or two). Let's revisit the old Jaguar deal.

The Jaguars and Tebow are a uniquely arranged marriage. They are perfect for each other. Personally, as a huge Tebow fan, if he can't be a Bronco I would absolutely love to see what he could do with MJD, that young Jaguar defense, and a little help in the WR department (Blackmon, anybody?). If he must get traded, that's got to be the Bronco's first phone call. This also means our trade demands have changed. Obviously, we are no longer in the RGIII running (that was kind of a ridiculous fantasyland discussion anyway) so we don't need to necessarily get picks this year. In fact, it would make far more sense to trade for future picks.

What if we could get a conditional second from Jacksonville next season that turns into a first if the Jags make the playoffs next year for Tebow? Too cheap? Well, the demand just isn't there to drive the price up.

Scenario 2:

The Broncos and Peyton Manning play this smart and keep Tebow for 2012-2013 at least. Tebow is owed 875K this year. He's not even making one million dollars. I'm going to let the Tim Tebow fanatic in me fly for a minute so bear with me.

- Tebow may not be a great quarterback yet, but for his salary his a damn great football player. There may not be a single player in the NFL more dangerous from 5-yards in than Tim Tebow. Not one.

- Tebow is not the type of guy to cause a locker room problem because he isn't getting his way.

- Tebow can do in a pinch what few QB's in the NFL can do... play out of his mind when called in on short notice.

- Tebow is a worker and learner and getting two more years (till the end of his contract) to truly hone is craft could give this Broncos team some time to put some incredible pieces in place for him when he matures into the QB position, and then offer him a great future contract.

I see no reason why Peyton Manning coming to the Denver Broncos has to exclude Tebow. Tebow's numbers from 5-yards to goal alone make him twice as valuable as his salary. Does anyone here doubt that if John Fox had played Tebow in Tennessee we wouldn't have won that game?

Tebow is a gamechanger too, but he's not yet refined. As an organization we shouldn't be so shortsighted that we dump a great talent that costs us so little because we are so set in our ways. Manning and Tebow should learn how to coexist, and then Tebow should be used in certain situations as a player because his talent does convert into real NFL production.

Many of you will argue that this simply stunts Tebow's development, and that's true. He will probably be a little older before he reaches his full potential. However, we are in unique circumstances right now. The greatest FA of the decade just became available. He's got to be ours or out of our hair. I'm not ready to pit Tebow up against Peyton quite yet, are you?

I would hate so much to see the Chiefs be dominant. So much.

The Fan Reaction

This is my final point and then I'll shut up. I love Broncos fans. I really do. We've shared so many ups and downs over the past few years. We just witnessed one of the most amazing seasons in our team's history. But we can be so soft at times.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again, if you want Tebow gone because you are tired of the media circus that surrounds him you need to set down your Nicholas Sparks novel and grow a pair, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. You are soft and you aren't ready to win championships.

We live in a small(er) market town. Denver will never be New York. It will never be Philadelphia or Chicago or Los Angeles and hell, we may never even be Dallas. We are used to getting slighted in the media. We are used to being buried on page two or five. I think sometimes we like it. Some of us can't handle the big time.

Tebow launched this team to the forefront of the media and national news in a way that we haven't seen since we won our Superbowls. He made this team relevant nationally. Does this offend some of you? Is it too much? It shouldn't be. I want the Broncos to be the main story on every newspaper. I want us to overshadow the Packers during a perfect season. I want the one guy that makes every pretentious "analyst" blowhard eat so much crow they are relegated to calling fans of that guy "fanatics". You do realize that's what is going on right? When the player himself has made them look the fool they simply have to attack his fans by giving them a label and then making them look like tools.

Wear that shit.

I like that being a Tebow fan makes me some kind of fanatic. I get under people's skin. I like that my guy drives the world frickin crazy and his circus draws more viewers than anyone else. I like that Sports Illustrated, ESPN, People, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and Seventeen all want a piece of our guy.

Are you afraid of the circus? Or do you just love to hate it? If you want Tebow gone because we will go back to being that semi-interesting organization from the midwest I guarantee you we'll look back on these times as "remember when everyone argued about us?" Don't hate that we have bandwagoners now. Don't hate that we have haters, figure out how we can get some more.

Hey wait, I know how to do just that.

Let's give the NFL a Peyton Manning/Tim Tebow ticket and watch ESPN blow up. Let's show the NFL the Broncos mean business.

The AFC should be won through us. Manning can make that so.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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